1st Edition

Gilbert Stuart and the Impact of Manic Depression

By Dorinda Evans Copyright 2004
    238 Pages
    by Routledge

    Early American painter Gilbert Stuart has long been mistakenly represented as a hard-drinking rogue, habitual liar, and inexplicable financial failure. To explain his stylistic unevenness as an artist, he is assumed to have had an inferior assistant, but the documentary evidence for an assistant who painted on his portraits is non-existent-in fact, there is evidence to the contrary. This ground-breaking study demonstrates that Stuart suffered from a hereditary form of manic depression, leading him to create pictures that contain peculiar lapses characteristic of a manic-depressive, or bipolar, artist. Using documentary and empirical evidence-from diaries and letters to x-radiographs of paintings-this book fills important gaps in our knowledge of Stuart, and connects the strange visual effects in some of Stuart's paintings with cognitive deficits attendant with the disorder. In addition to Stuart, other bipolar artists, including George Romney, Raphaelle Peale, Gilbert Stuart Newton, and William Rimmer, are discussed in relation to these deficits, revealing patterns which carry broader implications for all manic-depressive artists. This volume is a significant contribution not only to studies of Stuart and the four other painters but also to our understanding of the mind of a manic-depressive artist. It bridges the broad disciplines of art history and psychopathology.

    Contents: Introduction: Stuart in every line; The case for bipolarity; Marked pictures; Newton's inheritance; The taint of madness; Similarities in a shared illness; Epilogue: myths and distortions; Selected bibliography; Index.


    Dorinda Evans is Professor Emerita of Art History at Emory University, USA.

    'This lavishly illustrated book is written in accessible language and should be of interest to academics and undergraduate students of art and psychology. It is an area of disciplinary overlap that continues to throw up interesting historical cases that often act to illuminate our understanding.' Cassone

    'This study considers Stuart in a humane and compassionate way and accords him dignity and agency without downplaying the desperate problems he faced. Professor Evans demonstrates that science can indeed contribute significantly to our understanding of art, if it is used judiciously and in conjunction with traditional art-historical appreciation.' Spiked